Former Chelsea goalkeeper, Petr Cech was named man of the match on his competitive ice hockey debut as his penalty shoot-out save helped Guildford Phoenix defeat Swindon Wildcats 2.
It was announced on Wednesday Cech would be making his debut for Guildford’s second team in the sport he grew up playing in his native Czech Republic and has always followed. Chelsea’s former keeper, and current technical and performance advisor, made some smart saves during a 2-2 draw.
Guildford took the lead but Swindon turned the contest on its head in the second period with two goals. The hosts staged their own comeback in the third period to send the match to overtime.
There were no more goals so to penalties it went. Cech saved Swindon’s first attempt and they missed two of their next four attempts, as did the Phoenix who eventually won 3-2 in the shoot-out. Cech was named Guildford’s man of the match afterwards, crowning a memorable first experience of competitive ice hockey for him.
Cech is of course the most successful goalkeeper in Chelsea Football Club history, including holding the record for the most number of clean sheets.
Having retired from football following the Europa League final in May when he played for Arsenal against Chelsea, Cech returned to Stamford Bridge in his new technical role in June.
At the age of 13, Cech had to make the decision between pursuing a future in ice hockey or in football, because he simply did not have time to practice both. Since moving to England he has frequently watched ice hockey in Guildford, as well as keeping up to speed with everything going on in the NHL in America.
Back in 1998, the 16-year-old Cech was captivated by his nation, the Czech Republic’s dramatic triumph in that year’s Winter Olympics in Japan. He takes up the story.
‘It was in Nagano so the ice hockey quarter-finals, semi-finals and final were all in the morning, so I didn’t go to school,’ he laughs. ‘We all tried to find a way not to miss it.
‘That year was the first the NHL allowed all the best players to go and participate, so people called it the “Tournament of the Century” because every nation could choose any player they wanted from every competition. This time is the same so it will be exciting.’
On signing for the Phoenix, Cech said: ‘I am delighted to have the opportunity to play with the Phoenix to get the match experience. I hope I can help this young team to achieve their goals for the season and try to win as many games as possible when I have the chance to play.
‘After 20 years of professional football this is going to be a wonderful experience for me to play the game I loved to watch and play as a kid.’